THE four-way dispute over the $23-million seized estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos ended Saturday, with the Singaporean Court of Appeals granting the estate’s ownership to the Philippine National Bank (PNB).
A report in the Singapore Straits Times on Friday said the funds, made up of $16.8 million and 4.2 million British pounds, form part of Marcos’ illicit fortune stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
The court junked the claims by the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), on at least five of Marcos’ foundations set up to hold the money in Swiss banks, as well as 9,539 human rights victims under Marcos’ rule, the Straits Times reported.
The top court, led by Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li, affirmed the High Court ruling that the PNB held the legal title to the funds as depositor of the money as well as original account holder with WestLB, the Germany-based bank that held the money.
In rejecting the victims’ claim, the court said the documents it considered did not have the legal effect of transferring any “proprietary interest” in the funds to them.
But the court said this does “not in any way deny the moral claims of the human rights victims and acknowledge that the human rights victims deserve redress for the grievous wrongs that they have suffered,” the report said.
The court also ruled that the Swiss foundations’ entitlement was lost after the Swiss court ordered the money transferred to PNB. The PNB holds the funds in escrow and placed the money in various banks in Singapore and Britain, the report said.
In 2004, WestLB in Singapore sought the court’s decision after four parties claimed to be rightful owners of the Swiss funds.
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997 issued a decision returning $680 million from Marcos’ Swiss bank deposits to the Philippines, pending compliance with two conditions — a final and executory decision of a credible Philippine court declaring the funds as ill-gotten, and giving part of the funds to Martial Law victims who won a class suit in Honolulu court against the Marcos estate.
The first condition was met in July 2003, when the Philippine Supreme Court declared the Marcos Swiss funds ill-gotten. The second was met when President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 last February.
Under the measure, P10 billion in funds from the alleged Marcos wealth will be used to pay the victims.
The law also created the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.